Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Illness: Dark & Light

I am living in the twilight, in the middle of a journey. The door of the past — with its healthy body in a very busy life— has been closed and it is not clear where the road will take me.
“Illness is a simple though painful reminder that we are not the masters of our bodies and our lives” writes Kat Duff (1).Illness is a humbling experience and as such I think, can bring some gifts in disguise. Insights wrapped up as setbacks, in the Game of Life.

After seven months of gradually increasing symptoms, discomfort and pains, instead of a slow or quick recovery, I have to accept and learn to live with this, like many people with long term illnesses have to. It has turned my life upside down, thrown me out of my comfort zone and the fulfilment of a hardworking busy life. It makes me stand apart, in another category, that of the ill, the weak, the elderly, the non-productive. It is a different journey. It feels like that, even here, in a community on a spiritual base, where most people always seem to be so busy and often are on the edge of being burned out, trying to do so well, to save the world or at least save our community. Or simply trying to earn a living and be able to control the ongoing incoming stream of bills. Like I did over the last decades.

At first this big change brought up feelings of tension, guilt and questioning “Why me?” Feeling a bit of a victim. At times I even blamed myself for it from the point of view of certain schools of psychology, that ‘with our thoughts we create our own reality’, so why did I create this? And why can’t I now immediately create a healthy body. It is easy to stumble into that pitfall of being at fault and responsible for illness ourselves. These thoughts are absolutely not helpful to me now. It does not mean I am not willing to look at a deeper personal cause of what my body is doing and how I can help to get out of this predicament; how to make my journey towards a better life. How I can make peace with the symptoms. How we can become allies instead of enemies and how we can start to work for the same goal. For me a goal of balance.

Since I was a young girl, my whole life has been an experience of learning how to have and maintain independence. Although I now know we all are inter-dependent, it is a tough journey to learn to ask for help. I can already feel grateful for and see the advantages of newly learned qualities like patience and slowing down. The ‘being dependent’ and compassion are in progress, so to speak. I’ve always been a multi-tasker, a quick thinker and doer. Slowing down, especially to prevent more accidents with my vertigo-dizziness and only partial eyesight, makes me clumsy. I walk like a drunken sailor. Out of doors with crutches, for my own safety. Constantly having to balance myself is exhausting but also contains the lesson of balancing the way of life. How to bring more balance into my, our lives?  How to bring some light in the darkness? The light of keeping up my spirit, my hope, my goals of renewed good health.

Simple but at times exhausting survival activities like washing, getting dressed, shopping nearby and cooking easily fill my days, next to time to rest.  ”How did I ever have time to work?” I grin and wonder. Too tired to pick up a pen or pencil during the daytime, texts like this only come in the sleepless dark hours of the night, scribbled on and in between the lines, which I can hardly distinguish. It does not matter: I recognised the words and pass them on to you here, as part of my journey. On my way to more light.

© text and photo: Adriana Bijman. photo in the bus at the A96 to Inverness, along the Moray First Coast, 2015.
(1) The Alchemy of Illness, 1993 p 59.
Blog 42, Winter 2015/2016


  1. A wise and honest post. As someone with a chronic condition for over 20 years now..I know what it's like to struggle with things other people take for granted.......but, we are not our bodies though they are part of our being,,and we learn that nothing can take away our essence, our spirit..and in fact in grappling with illness there comes a strength, a learning, and compassion. I have learnt to stay strong, however down I may get..and to know that I will come through's my body that Gas the illness...the essential self is very well...

  2. Dear Adriana thank you for your honest sharing, what wisdom, vulnerability and strength. I am in a similar position as you know, and the only thing that I can say is that I am sure that Gratitude for Decrepitude is for me the ultimate spiritual path. I surrender to whatever higher wisdom has co-created this, I count my blessings and I try to smile about my trials whenever I manage, faith that there is a purpose to this journey helps greatly. Thank you!

  3. Thank you for sharing these wise and inspirational thoughts, Adriana. When I was suffering from vertigo I spent a long time trying to fight it, but when I accepted it and embraced it as part of my life I found an inner peace and stopped waiting impatiently for it to end. After a year it did end, but by then I was a stronger person, my happiness no longer dependent on external circumstances. You sound as though you are well on the way to more light. I wish you peace, strength and joy.

  4. Dear Adriana, that's a brave, beautifully written account of what must be a difficult & unsettling time. I so admire your positivity. Sending love & healing wishes, Ruth xx

  5. Beautifully written Adriana and so true for me too! So often I am able to think, pray, meditate and write in the small hours of the morning. I too am recovering and healing from decades of workaholism and multi-tasking - a gradual unravelling of my true self.